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May 13, 2023

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True love is beyond age, conventionality

MY close female friend Jia Fang, who used to complain a lot about men, has recently been sporting a happy face at our gatherings.

She told us that she’s dating a man much younger than her, about a seven-year age gap, and she loves him.

“He makes me feel energetic,” she said. “He accepts ambitious career women like me, and we may get engaged soon.”

I can feel her happiness.

Indeed, women dating and marrying younger men is trending in China.

The recent Chinese TV series “Nothing But You” has received a score of 8.3 out of 10 on Douban, China’s leading film and TV review website, and ignited hot discussions on social media.

The TV drama tells of how athlete Song Sanchuan and professional agent Liang You’an go through their life and career difficulties together and in the process tackle the challenges brought about by the love relationship.

The two-way redemption of the male and female protagonists in “Nothing But You” has opened people’s eyes to the new possibilities of the cradlesnatcher genre.

However, the delicacy of relationship and intimacy issues, in reality, is way complicated.

Perfect match or too offensive?

According to a report in 2018 in China Women’s News, around 60 percent of male respondents and 50 percent of female respondents said in a survey released by a Chinese matchmaking website that they can accept a five-year age difference in a harmonious relationship involving younger men.

Nearly 90 percent of single people surveyed said that they accept such relationship.

Official analysis suggests that career women tend to care more about gender equality, better education, and economic and mental independence, as well as have a lower desire to marry and have children.

Apart from the changing economic landscape in China when women are also the main workforce and are becoming more financially independent, a shift in attitudes toward age differences in relationships contributes to the social trend as well.

In the past, there have been more of a stigma attached to relationships where the man was younger than the woman. However, as people become more open-minded, this stigma has decreased, making it more socially acceptable for women to date and marry younger men in China.

“I have been fed up with the idea True love is beyond age, conventionality that women should look for a man to take care of her, a man who is more educated, has a better job and makes more money,” said Sandra L. Caron, a professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine in the United States.

She pointed out that “when you look at adult women, most are selfsufficient.”

Women say that having a younger boyfriend, partner or husband has tons of advantages. They tend to be more considerate and less controlling, ideal for independent career-minded


“I find younger boyfriend is just more attractive or compatible with my lifestyle,” said Jia.

Meanwhile, from the men’s point of view, cougars, or women who date younger men, are more mature, intellectual, and economically and emotionally independent. Dating them can be relaxing and more fulfilling because of more meaningful conversations, including valuable career advice that may not be possible from peers.

However, not every woman agrees.

Xiao Ming, 38, has experienced dating younger men and found it’s not for her.

“He’s so naïve, and I never knew what he was thinking about. Every time I visited his home, he just played computer games. He and his room were a total mess,” she said.

“After that, I told myself that I need to find an older boyfriend, more mature and prudent, and independent financially and psychologically.”

Even though, she still supports agegap relationships.

“I think it depends on personal character. There are many good examples showing such relationships can work very well,” she said.

Trendy all over the world

In the United States, a confident, strong, single woman over 40 years

Old, of the comically desperate predator-seductress type, is often depicted in television shows like “Cougar Town.”

The increasing open-mindedness, which is not just limited to age but also to race, religion and economic status, appears to be particularly evident among female baby boomers, sociologists say.

They are faced with the tightest “marriage squeeze,” the smallest pool of compatible men as conventionally defined, those two to three years older, of similar background and higher levels of education and income.

The reason for this is that while women are late in marriage, men still have a tendency to date and marry younger females.

In the last few years, as the loaded term “cougar” was popularized by the media’s frenzied fascination with Demi Moore’s marriage to Ashton Kutcher, who is 15 years her junior, and the dalliances and liaisons of other celebrities like Madonna and Katie Couric, researchers have begun to examine such relationships.

South Korea has seen a growing number of women opting to marry younger men. They are mostly aged between 35 and 45 years old. The trend appears to have achieved normalization in South Korea, Japan and China, according to the National Statistical Office of Korea.

In Japan, a TV series titled “Last Cinderella” depicts the life of a 39-year-old woman who is under tremendous pressure from work and life, and falls in love with a man in his 20s.

It has long been taboo, heavily influenced by the Freudian notion that older women are mother substitutes or “robbing the cradle.”

Although true love is beyond age, what many experts are saying about age-gap relationships sometimes makes both sides uncomfortable.

Others have cited infidelity as a stronger possibility in relationships with a big age difference.


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